The Ups and Downs of the IoT

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    With the Internet of Things (IoT) likely to ramp up in short order, there is a need to at least try to project what it all means and how things will be different in an IoT world.

    If past is prologue, the IoT will produce valuable gains to business and the culture at large, but it will also present great challenges, both on a technological and a societal level.

    According to Gartner, more than half of business processes and systems will incorporate IoT in one way or another by 2020, and it will impact every industry on the planet, although probably not every application. But if you think this equals the IT nirvana that always seems just out of reach, think again. The firm anticipates 75 percent of IoT projects will overrun their initial timelines, some by as much as double, and the rate of failure will increase according to project size and complexity. Naturally, this will cause many leaders to compromise on the project’s scope, which could then impact performance, security and integration, resulting in disillusion.

    It’s almost inevitable, though, that the first attempts at IoT will be less-than-perfect. Hank Aaron went hitless in five at-bats in his first MLB game. The real question is whether the industry can achieve a rapid enough learning curve to keep the momentum going until the IoT can be branded a success. On that score, those pushing IoT platforms need to shore up some critical weaknesses, such as security, and fast, says eWeek’s Wayne Rash. Tens of billions of connected devices means tens of billions of security threats, and if we are talking about deploying these things throughout critical infrastructure, including industrial control systems and power grids, we’d better figure out a way to push security to this new enterprise edge.

    On the upside, of course, some of the ways in which the IoT can change things are truly astounding, particularly when paired with other emerging technologies. A company called PTC, which specializes in product lifecycle management, is looking to combine the IoT with augmented reality (AR), which, as the company puts it, will usher in the convergence of the physical and digital worlds. With a set of AR goggles, for example, a network or industrial engineer will be able to “walk” into his or her data environment and make changes by moving or altering virtually rendered objects rather than typing code into a terminal. I would imagine there could even be various themes for the user interface – steampunk, perhaps, or 1980s arcade-style.

    The real value of IoT is not in the technology, however, but the data, and according to IoT Journal’s Mary Catherine O’Connell, we could be on the verge of a perfect storm as stakeholders on both the consumer and business sides hash out issues like privacy and ownership in the new data-driven environment. This will be fueled by the conflicting needs of data transparency and the requirement for many industries, like health care, to keep private information private. And in time-honored free-market tradition, several start-ups are already looking to square these and other IoT-related circles.

    Initiatives like the IoT are proof that the changes being wrought to enterprise infrastructure these days – SDN, the cloud, mobility and the like – are not merely about providing better, faster and less costly performance but about remaking the business process and even the models they support.

    No one can say exactly how these changes will manifest themselves fully, but it is fair to say it won’t be business as usual for IT for very much longer.

    Arthur Cole writes about infrastructure for IT Business Edge. Cole has been covering the high-tech media and computing industries for more than 20 years, having served as editor of TV Technology, Video Technology News, Internet News and Multimedia Weekly. His contributions have appeared in Communications Today and Enterprise Networking Planet and as web content for numerous high-tech clients like TwinStrata and Carpathia. Follow Art on Twitter @acole602.

    Arthur Cole
    Arthur Cole
    With more than 20 years of experience in technology journalism, Arthur has written on the rise of everything from the first digital video editing platforms to virtualization, advanced cloud architectures and the Internet of Things. He is a regular contributor to IT Business Edge and Enterprise Networking Planet and provides blog posts and other web content to numerous company web sites in the high-tech and data communications industries.

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